Have You Hugged A Volunteer Today?

March 30, 2014   |   posted in


You have seen them everywhere you went in the Festival since Day One: friendly, smiling people in bright orange t-shirts, performing jobs that ranged from ballot collection and ticket-checking to serving ice cream in the Hospitality HQ. They are our phenomenal volunteers, who this year number over 800. Each day’s roster of volunteers on duty averages 200 – which was the total number of volunteers for the whole Festival when volunteer co-coordinator Gayle Norris started, as a volunteer herself, in 1998.

In fact, many members of the Festival’s seasonal staff, which this year numbers 210, got their starts as volunteers. For some, it’s a way to work toward a career in the film world, or try to network with people in the industry. For most, however, it’s simply a way to participate in an event that they love on an even deeper, richer level that gives back to the community… and which may still turn into a long-term regular position.

One patron was in the midst of describing a volunteer she particularly liked seeing—a man with a beard and a friendly, welcoming smile, who had been out in the theater hall for the past few years—when she spotted him walking up. “That’s him now,” she said. He was Brandon Olsen, who joined the theater operations staff last year after volunteering in the hallways for two years.

Now that he’s “part of the bigger CIFF family,” his advice is to “treat volunteers like you want to be treated.” Friday was Volunteer Appreciation Day in honor of that idea, and for the second year, we are presenting an exemplary CIFF volunteer with the Ralph D. Howard Memorial Volunteer Award, in honor of one of our most iconic and beloved volunteers. (Some of you may remember him as “Einstein!”)

Our volunteers are truly a breed apart, and we would be lost without them.

Anne DiTeodoro and Lara Klaber

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